The Bible presents a great variety of concepts. Some of these deal with philosophies about life, while others are about concepts beyond our present lives. With the current scientific focus in Western life, often the most popular aspects of the Bible are those that fit in with that school of thought. An example of this would be to see the Bible as a starting point for developing a moral code. However, the Bible contains concepts which have much further reaching consequences. One of these is the “Resurrection” that it details.
This doctrine claims that people can achieve life after they die. As an example, Jesus said:
John 11:25.: ... "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. NKJV
This is a very significant claim, as in comparison it begins to trivialise many of the issues faced in life.
In the community at large, there is a fear and suspicion of death. So far as we can tell from natural things, once a person dies, that person's thoughts and identity no longer exist. However, various religions offer the idea that the identity of a person lives on in some form.
Some believe in reincarnation, where people are born again as a different being. Depending on the religion, this may mean being reincarnated into a different type of being, such as animals, or as another human. In most cases it is not believed that the past life is remembered after ther reincarnation.
Then there is the idea that they move to some other world. This is prominent in ancient religions, such as the Egyptians. There people believed there was some form of afterlife. Many christian churches teach a similar idea with ideas such the immortal souls doctrine. In that case, the essence of a person would travel to heaven or hell on death.
In a more natural sense, people can be thought to live on through the memory of their acts, or through offspring. In some sense, the presence of a name in a history book makes that person immortalised. There are elements of this seen in the Bible, as one of the great promises to Abraham in the book of Genesis was that his offspring would become great. However, this form of continued existence is very limited in its effect, and doesn't include the participation of the person concerned.
There is also the idea of resurrection, where people are raised from the dead to live again some time after their death. This is an idea that is seen through the Bible. In the period shortly after someone has died, resuscitation seems a reasonable step, and this would be a form of resurrection. With the science of cryogenics, people are hoping that one day this will be open to science. The Bible, however, speaks of a far more powerful resurrection - of people who have been long dead.
Although people working in the biological sciences have looked for ways of significantly prolonging a person's life, this has remained well outside the realms of possibility. This raises two issues. One is that the potential benefit from a faith that offers a resurrection is very high. It is something that we would not be able to attain by any other means. The other issue is that doubt can be cast on the possibility of it, simply because it is not something that is seen day to day.
3. Place in the Bible
The term “resurrection” itself does not appear a lot of times in the Bible. Although the word only occurs about 40 times, the concept is something that occurs much more often. The writer Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
1 Cor 15: 18. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. NKJV
This shows that there are at least two “lives” for us to consider. It is reasonable to associate “this life” with our present mortal life. It is true that we can have a hope in Christ in this life, and this would be considered to be a good thing. However, Paul states that if it is only in this life, the person is to be pitied. It claims that there is a much greater hope, and one that makes the present hope pitiful in comparison.
With this level of importance placed on it, the concept of a resurrection becomes fundamental to the teachings of the Bible. It could be argued that resurrection does not affect our present life and so is not worth worrying about, but this is not the position of the Bible.
The State of the Dead
From a scientific point of view, it may seem obvious what happens to people when they die, but the Bible also helps fill in this picture. In the book of Psalms, the threat of death is seen a number of times. In Chapter 6, we see that there is a loss of thought at death:
Psalm 6:4.: Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake! 5. For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? NKJV
This is brought out in Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 9:5.: For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. NKJV
Speaking in terms of a life without God, the writer continues on to say that you have to live your life now, because it's all we have:
Ecclesiastes: 10. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. NKJV
In Psalm 49, it is worse, as we are there likened to animals. Yet here there is an element of hope.
Psalm 49:16.: Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, When the glory of his house is increased; 17. For when he dies he shall carry nothing away; His glory shall not descend after him. 18. Though while he lives he blesses himself ... 19. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; They shall never see light. 20. A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, Is like the beasts that perish. NKJV
So even though someone is rich and respected, their death leaves them in the same state as a dead animal. However, in this passage there is a condition. This is a condition of understanding. It shows that if there is an understanding of God, there is still a hope. The writer himself had this hope, as seen in verse 15.
Psalm 49:15.: But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. NKJV
This shows he knew that death was the end of life, but he still had another hope, based on his understanding of God.
4. Waking of the Dead
The book of Daniel contains a number of prophecies. These are descriptions of things that are to happen in the future. Daniel 11 is a detailed description of national events that can largely be identified with events that have already occurred. Chapter 12, however, shows a time that has not yet been seen.
Daniel 12:1.: "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. NKJV
By correlation with other parts of the Bible, the “Michael” referred to can identified with the Jewish Messiah who Christians believe to be Jesus. Daniel prophecies of a time when this man will stand up and cause a series of events to occur. There is firstly a time of trouble, “such as never was since there was a nation”. In recent history, there have been upheveals such as the world wars, but even these fall short of such a description.
Verse 2 then speaks of a resurrection, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”. Both righteous and unrighteous people are said to be raised, with a reward offered to the former, and a punishment to the latter.
In the Gospel of John in the New Testament, similar words are spoken:
John 5:28.: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29. "and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. NKJV
There is the resurrection of two classes of people. For some it is a reward, and for others it is for a punishment. It is also clear that this is to happen at a given time, in the “hour” that is coming. This has yet to be observed on the earth, so if the Bible is correct, this is to be a future event.
Life to Judah
The prophet Isaiah also speaks of a time when the dead will live again. In Isaiah 26, the prophet speaks on behalf of the Jewish people,
Isaiah 2:1.: In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: "We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. NKJV
It goes on to talk about the conflict with national adversaries, and how these adversaries would be defeated at the hands of God,
Isaiah 26:12.: LORD, You will establish peace for us, For You have also done all our works in us. 13. O LORD our God, masters besides You Have had dominion over us; But by You only we make mention of Your name. 14. They are dead, they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And made all their memory to perish. NKJV
Then in verse 19 he gets onto the fate of the people of God, and what their eventual fate would be.
Isaiah 26:19.: Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead. 20. Come, my people, enter your chambers, And shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, Until the indignation is past. 21. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; The earth will also disclose her blood, And will no more cover her slain. NKJV
This is a message that there would be a time of trouble, but at the end of that, there is a time of life again and of pleasure. There are many similarities between this and the message of Daniel. There is a firstly a time of trouble and difficulty, and then the resurrection and a glorious future. In addition to this, the enemies of God are punished and defeated.
In John 11, there is a record of a resurrection being performed by Jesus. This incident brings out a number of issues relevant to that topic.
After Lazarus had been sick, Jesus was called to heal him. When Jesus had arrived, he was already dead, and the woman Martha spoke to him,
John 11:21.: Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22. "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23. Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24. Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." NKJV
This shows that Martha knew of a resurrection. Not only did she know of it, but she knew it's form. It was to be one “at the last day”, as we saw in Daniel. She didn't expect Lazarus to be raised until that time, but she was hoping of Jesus anyhow.
John 11:25.: Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" NKJV
Jesus was saying here how that resurrection was offered through him, and his resulting power and importance. Further he shows how he has power to make people never die, which goes far beyond the issue of Lazarus' untimely death.
Jesus subsequently raised Lazarus to life again, but it's clear that this resurrection was simply that, and he was raised to his original mortal state again. Jesus' words though, show that there is a hope of much more.
Apart from the Old-Testament references to a resurrection, there are many references to this event in the New Testament. It is in the New Testament where many of the details may be found. When appearing before the governor in defense of his conduct, the apostle Paul made a claim that he believed in the resurrection from the dead.
Acts 24:15.: "I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. NKJV
This agrees closely with the words written in the book of Daniel. There are also some more detailed explanations of the time. One of this is in the letter to the Thessalonians,
1 Thess 4:13.: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. NKJV
In this case, both a resurrection, and a gathering of people who are alive is spoken of. The dead and the living are joined and then remain with the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15 is a chapter with a large emphasis on the resurrection. It is a part of an arguement of the apostle Paul to show that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
1 Cor 15:16.: For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. NKJV
The important aspect from this passage is that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable”. It shows that the promise of resurrection offers a much greater hope than what can be seen in our current lives.
It is also a hope that is intimately bound up in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is primarily saying that if there is no resurrection then Jesus is still dead, so there is no hope of salvation though him. However, it is also showing that there is a link between the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of resurrection with his followers.
As the passage continues this is developed, and a definite link is made to the kingdom idea from the earlier passages.
1 Cor 15:21.: For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. NKJV
This refers back to the Garden of Eden, when death came into the world by the sin of Adam. By inheritance we all die, but this shows that by an inheritance through Christ, there is a hope of living again. This second life is to occur with the coming of Christ, in a kingdom he is to establish. Toward the conclusion of this chapter, a link is also made to a change in the bodies of the people raised from the dead.
1 Cor 15:51.: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- 52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." NKJV
This shows that the resurrection is not simply back to the same type of existance as the mortal life. Instead, the raised recieve immortality, that “Death is swallowed up in victory”. So not only is there a promise of life again after death, but also an immortal life, where there isn't the fear of a second death. This is truly a great hope, and shows the depth of the significance of the Bible.
5. The Kingdom
The change in the nature of people suggests that after this event the world would be a very different place. Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 is also consistent with a time when things will change. In this case, some details are given about the time.
Matthew 5:1.: And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. NKJV
Firstly there is a promised Kingdom associated with heaven, so we are looking for a heavenly king to be the ruler. Mourners will be comforted, and “The meek shall inherit the earth”.
Chapter 11 of Isaiah neatly combines the ideas we have seen. It is a prophecy of a future time when a promised ruler will rule over a world at peace.
Isaiah 11:1.: There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4. But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; ... 6. " The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. ... 9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. NKJV
The person referred to as the “Branch” is understood to be referring to a promised Messiah. Christians believe that this Messiah is Jesus, while the Jews believe he is yet to appear. Under the just rule of the Messiah, people are promised peace and prosperity. This fits neatly as the conclusion of Daniel 12, Isaiah 26, and 1 Cor 11.
Many of the prophecies and promises of resurrection are often also speak of difficult times leading up to it. Just as Daniel prophesied about a “time of trouble such as never was”, the book of Timothy speaks of unpleasant times.
2 Tim 3:1.: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3. unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4. traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, NKJV
By connection with other Bible passages, these last times must refer to the last times before the “time of trouble”, the resurrection and establishment of the kingdom. The evidence of these elements in the late 20th century is quite clear. The increase of many of these attributes over the past 50 years has been quite clear.
2 Tim 3:5.: having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! NKJV
2 Tim 3:7.: always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. NKJV
These passages aptly describe the humanist and humanist/christian philosophies that are currently gaining popularity. It is re-assuring that the Bible is consistent and accurate in it's predictions.
Why Listen to this Promise?
Many religions and life philosophies offer promises and hopes. In this sense the Bible may possibly be treated no differently. The differentiation becomes a matter of the value of the promise. This evaluation of this value is comprised of three parts. These are:
- The worth of the promise itself.
- The probability that the promise is true.
- The cost of being part of it.
In the case of resurrection, these could be recast in questions as:
- Why worry about it?
- How do we know?
- What do I need to do?
Just because a promise is given, it is not an indication that the promise is necessarity something that is wanted. The government may promise five years in prison for a committing a crime, but that is not normally something that is wanted. The rewards in the human book of the law are not as good as the rewards in God's book of the law.
The second aspect can be harder to evaluate. This is the probability that the promise is true. With the case of the five years in prison, it is possible to see that the people do indeed receive the promise, but with future promises, it can be harder to evaluate. In this case, it has to rely on the reliability of the source of the promise. In the case of the Bible, it is a question of the reliability of the Bible. In the case of science and humanism, it is a question of the reliability of those philosophies.
All of these potential sources of wisdom are a means of modelling our life and environment. They seek to explain how things work, and give an insight into what is beyond the observed. When trying to evaluate the quality of such a model, it is important to evaluate the prediction ability of a model rather than the explanation value. This is one point where many scientific views break down, because they are simply an explaination of observations.
So the Bible might be harder to prove correct than simple observations, but the potential rewards are also much greater. The authenticity of the Bible is outside the scope of this article, but there are many indicators that may be used.
The final aspect is “The Cost”, or “What do I need to do?” This questions is asked by a jailer in the book of Acts.
Acts 16:30.: And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31. So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." NKJV
So the first step was to form a belief in Jesus, as this was the critical element to salvation. This is the message that Jesus told his disciples to preach.
Mark 16:15.: And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. NKJV
There is a cost to following Jesus, in terms of our present life. This is a cost that many people are not prepared to pay. It means that we are constrained by the code and commandments of God. On the other hand, to those who appreciate it, the benefit far outweighs that cost.
Philippians 3:8.: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ NKJV
In Christ there are benefits both now and in the future. Even now, accepting the guidance of God through the Bible offers can answer questions and shape our lives for the better. But the real hope is with the return of Jesus, the establishment of his kingdom, peace in the world, and the resurrection of the dead.
The resurrection of the dead is a theme central to the message of the Bible. It is a very important and valuable hope, which can be confirmed simply though the truth of the Bible, and believing in it. The promises of the Bible are so great that they can make all other things appear insignificant. It is the offer of both life and meaning.
Acts 4:10.: "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11. "This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' 12. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." NKJV